Do Cats Manipulate Us For Resources Or Love Us?

Detractors of the domestic cat will argue that they don’t love their human companion but manipulate them into providing resources such as security, warmth and the all-important food.

Supporters of the domestic cat will argue that they truly do have genuine affection towards us. They miss us when we are not there. Dogs are the same. You must have seen the videos of dogs at home alone pacing and crying out, confused and then settling down patiently waiting.

The question that in the title to this short post is silly because we know they love us:

Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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28 Responses

  1. Albert Schepis says:

    Wow, this illicits a lot of words in effort to decide or debate if it’s this or that. The answer is simply: both. There’s no harm in concluding both and many answers can be true.

  2. Sylvia Ann says:

    Monty’s Mom:

    Do not be alarmed. This proclivity may be universal in cats. One summer day, shortly after moving down here, am minding own business, lolling on blanket in secluded backyard, when Bunny, my panther-man, comes sauntering by, does a double-take and makes a BEELINE FOR CHEST-DOT! (Think Molly & Leopold Bloom here.) Am aghast, dead-sure some hummingbird-sized, Pentagon-spy-drone is hovering in the empyrean, filming scenario. Pry loose helpless dot from puckered cat-lips and dash into house, remaining there for rest of day. End of sun-bath.
    Caroline: Don’t ever go back there. They sound vindictive. Surely there are other vets within a sane commute? Shop around. The I.Magnin/Saks 5th Avenue vet I’d been going to for years charged three times what a vet a mile down the road charged, and the latter was 30 years younger, state-of-the-art competent, attentive and kind to my cats.

    Another possibility: don’t know what attorneys are like in your neck of the woods, but out here on the west coast the P-I practitioners are ambulance-chasers. What’s more, lawyers advertise their services on the media nowadays, and might be able to jump-start the undoing of vets who declaw. No…one cat with bone splinters would hardly provide a case to retire on, but the lawyers could wad together thousands of fiends into class-action suits. Everyone’s litigious to the nth, and ‘owners’ who declawed their poor cats would come forward in droves, lusting for and likely receiving a modest settlement. The cats could be x-rayed for a couple of hundred dollars or less, and the plaintiffs and lawyers might net a couple of thousand from each cat.
    Dee — TWELVE years old, you say? A few days ago I sat next to this 2nd-grader who was whipping in and out of these diagnostic screens, swaying in his chair, elbows akimbo, and thundering away at the keyboard like Ignace Paderewski while I sat there hunting for the Shift key. Could have throttled the little b**ger.

    Kylie – of course they love you – and of course they make a house a home. My own house, right now, isn’t much more than a sepulcher. Send in some more of your nifty photos and write another great article! xx

    • Ruth (Monty's Mom) says:

      LOL, Sylvia. Ha, ha, ha.

    • kylee says:

      I really couldnt imagine having no cats they are so part of my life now i couldnt imagine life without them. When i was little i had a fear of dogs as when i was a baby had these puppies that were just licking me. Wasnt until i was 9 or 10 i got used to having a dog. Then later on in life i began to accept them. Cats have always been the constant love and were able to cope much better with. They like the Children i never had.

  3. kylee says:

    Im totally sure they love us well mine do. I know they have them own way of appreciating what we do for them in small ways and big ways. Their love is unconditional and without it my life wouldnt be much interesting or happy.

  4. Sylvia Ann says:

    To Monty’s Mom –

    Ruth, a few months back a friend was asking me if I had any suggestions as to how to prevent her cat from butchering the birds in her backyard.

    Several years ago I’d banged out a PoC- post suggesting how I avoided this problem: viz., by keeping my cats in during the day, at least in the spring, and letting them out only after the birds had retired for the evening hours (my cats didn’t climb trees — i.e., I never SAW them do it).

    Every spring, when the mother birds (presumably the mothers, though perhaps the dads too) were hunting for worms, and the nestlings were taking their maiden flights – they’re weak at that age, and drift to the ground where the cats lie in wait – Ethel and Insp. McWee killed them by the droves.

    Well, a few months ago, when I went into the catacombs to see if I could retrieve that old post for my friend (moldering in its shroud, as it was), I was electrified to come upon this nice comment you’d left at the time.

    My mother was from the ‘old country,’ meaning she brought me up to be polite. I’d never have deliberately ignored your kind comment. For all my failings, and I have enough to bottle and sell, I hope I’m not that ill-mannered. All throughout my childhood years my mother taught me to curtsy to grownups, shake hands with and address them by their last names, or as ‘Tanty'(‘aunty’ in Swedish).

    Thing is, I don’t spend much time on the Internet, and have an ingrained lack of interest in blog-chats. Not because I have ‘an ingrained lack of interest’ in chatting with congenial people – of which there are many on PoC – but because I’m private by nature and semi-cringe at an open forum. Have said it before and will say it again: blog-chat, to me, is like ‘bathing in the Ganges,’ with its thousands of strangers hovering around the edges of the group. In the posts I’ve concocted in years past, I’ve seldom or never used the personal pronoun, as I almost can’t bear to talk about myself online. Of course I do in e-mails, but it doesn’t come natural on a blog site. I prefer to visit with friends in person – or, at the least – snail-mail or e-mail a few years-long pals. At bottom, though, I’m a pitiful Luddite, and don’t like to spend much time online. Don’t watch TV either.

    The reason I’ve whacked out some patter on PoC these past several weeks is that I can neither receive nor transmit e-mails from my new computer. Nothing works. Techie retard that I am, it took me eleven days just to find the C-drive on this Word-8 setup – and the e-mail function is dead as a doornail.

    Even at that, I prefer reality to ‘virtual reality,’ and kept e-mails – when they worked – down to an hour a day. Ninety minutes at most. Since buying this piece of junk last month, I’ve had to transmit and receive them from a computer at the library in the neighboring town.

    Thing is, when I used to bat out a PoC post in years past, I wandered off into the mists afterwards, and never thought to look for comments. In fact, I kept the posts deliberately long and impersonal, because, as stated above, I’m uncomfortable with the use of ‘I’ in a post, and with blog-chat in general.

    But I certainly didn’t mean to be boorish, and was thunderstruck to read your kind comments several years after you’d posted them. I saw no way of thanking you, so long after the fact, for your lovely words – the whole thing was bizarre – though they stayed in my mind for a long while. Your comments, as always, were beautifully expressed and insightful, and you’re obviously an outstanding Mom to your fine boy.

    Yes – I agree. Food is an expression of love. In fact, I have a hard time defining love beyond acts of kindness bestowed on the ‘loved one.’ If someone wants to show me their love – hey – they can unscrew the lid on a jar of pickles, bring me a load of horse manure, or re-attach a shingle the wind blew off my roof. I’m mildly creeped out by someone who tells me ‘they love me,’ though it’s au courant for people to blat that to each other non-stop, nowadays, or so it seems. Of what conceivable, tangible good is that saccharine declaration? In its way, it’s as awful – it is to me – as some ten-cent-store vase your maiden aunt buys you for your birthday. What in Sam Hill do you DO with the thing? If I love someone – human or animal – I don’t trumpet it in their ear all day long. Its constant verbalization cheapens the sentiment. If I love them, I give them something useful, or render them a useful service. Sympathy, a bendable ear, or something that entails thousands of dollars and an ongoing effort.

    Several months ago, I went to see a priest at a local cathedral. I’m rock-solid agnostic, not because I have anything against any religious belief. In fact I love much of the Christian and Judaic ethic. I even sit in church on Good Fridays, when the churches over here, on the west coast, are empty but unlocked. (Years ago, they used to have services on Good Friday; no longer, though). I have the same lifelong flood of emotion for Christ as I had/have for Mother Teresa (despite Christopher Hitchens critique of her in his essays and books). To retur to the priest. I met with him to ask him about something regarding a secular matter, and before I left, he clasped my hands – which was vaguely uncomfortable to me – and told me Jesus was going to love for all eternity, despite my agnosticism. I replied, as nicely as I could, that I hadn’t a trace of a wish for an afterlife – in fact, I opposed the mere thought – nor would I have any use for love after I ‘popped my clogs’ – to quote the other Ruth – though, heaven have mercy, I didn’t phrase my reply to him in as bluntly as that: he was the incarnation of everything kind and gracious. But again – for me – and I’m solidly prosaic -love means to fulfill the needs of someone else as best one can, and who has any needs when they’ve fallen off their twig? Make yourself useful to me in some way, and I’ll do the same for you. That’s what love is, from my perhaps benighted point of few. I did everything I could for my cats, and nothing could save them. Why? Because recycling is the Law of the Universe. At least until the 2nd Law of Thermo kicks in.

    Thank you, though, for your thoughtful comments above, and PET that special boy of yours! And yes – I bet he misses his Mom when she’s gone for a while, and snuggles up to his stuffed toy. I hope you have many more years to enjoy each other.


    • DW says:

      Not to be uncaring Sylvia, but I hope you keep writing comments, at least until you figure out your computer. (Hint; find at 12 year old to help! Lol)
      Your words seem to pour out like music. And beautiful music. I feel such appreciation of the internet. I’d have never read your words, or Michael’s, or any of the others without it. Thank you for commenting.

    • Ruth (Monty's Mom) says:

      I’ve always thought you were an excellent writer, Sylvia Ann!

    • Ruth (Monty's Mom) says:

      I petted him a lot today, Sylvia, even with my foot, which he really prefers.

  5. Ruth (Monty's Mom) says:

    I think Monty loves me, but it is also about food, warmth and comfort for him. He is practical. He can be a bit of a jerk. But at the end of the day, he loves me. Me misses me when I’m gone, snuggling up to his stuffed doggie instead. He enjoys sitting and relaxing with me in the evenings. He purrs when I pick him up. But he is also ever vigilant for any trips I make to the kitchen, since I might be getting something for him. But you can love the one from whom your food comes– children love their parents, who feed them. We love God, who feeds us. It is all about the food, in the end. To feed is to show love. So it isn’t wrong for the one who is loved to crave the food given by the one who loves him. And to crave that food is in itself an expression of love, or it can be, I think. Isn’t that a test of whether you have tamed a wild animal? If they will take food from your hand, then you are making progress at taming them. To accept food from someone you have to trust them. Keep receiving food from someone and you will come to love them. That’s why so often dating is all about food– eating meals together is usually part of it. You don’t eat with people you don’t like, generally speaking. Christ was criticized for eating with sinners and tax collectors. I love it when Monty gets a bit of salmon or tuna on the corner of my breakfast tray and he purrs as he eats it while I sit and eat my breakfast. Eating together is a very bonding experience. If you want to animals to get along together, feeding them side by side helps. So I don’t think you can separate the provision of basic needs, like food, from love. It is the basis for love given, love receive and love returned.

    • I think Monty loves me, but it is also about food, warmth and comfort for him. He is practical. He can be a bit of a jerk.

      Sounds like a woman talking about her husband 😉 Point made I hope. Cats do have affection for us but like any mammal (at least) they like support as well.

      • Ruth (Monty's Mom) says:

        Ha, ha, that’s funny, Michael. At least Jeff is not the jealous type. Except this one time. What follows is X-Rated, or at least PG 13:

        One night, while I was still in denial about the onset of menopause, lying naked on top of the blankets, heat rising off me in our 56 degree Fahrenheit house, telling myself that I just went to bed with too many quilts on me and that’s why I was drenched in sweat, Monty came up silently, unnoticed. Suddenly and very precisely he put his little cold nose directly on my nipple. I yelped and sat up, scaring the cat and waking Jeff, who seemed a little put out about Monty doing that.

        I reminded him of the time when Monty was just a kitten and I had remarked that he seemed to be so content with me, but also seemed to be looking around for a nipple. The last time he’d been that content and happy there had been a nipple and milk involved! Jeff had said to him, “Your teat days are over, cat!” Well, nearly five years later, Monty found what he’d been looking for…with his little cold nose.

  6. Sylvia Ann says:

    Is an animal capable of unconditional love? That is, love for a human who has never done a thing to contribute to the animal’s welfare? Dogs that love their inattentive ‘owners’ are tragically common. Within (mercifully dim) earshot of my house is another house with a kennel of dogs that raise their voices – that ‘whoooo-hoooo’ in piteous rapture when their ‘owner’ steps outside. What she feeds the dogs is anyone’s guess – no doubt whatever is cheapest to buy – and they sit outside twelve months a year. The coldest it ever is down here is 10 F. which, however, is uncomfortable for a dog, especially given their ‘doghouses’ – wide-open, cramped wooden boxes.

    And yet they voice boundless, heartrending rapture when she steps out the door and walks through the yard on some errand or other, never bothering to look in their direction.

    Many people claim that their cat is sensitive to their parent’s moods; i.e., if the parent is sad, the cat will come over to comfort him. I have never experienced this awareness in cats I’ve had over the years, though it likely exists, as others have described it. Nor, to my knowledge, will a cat rush to your aid if you stumble and fall, as will a dog, who’ll climb all over you in its anxiety.

    As for an animal’s capability to love its human parent – again – I’ve seen it so often in dogs that were ignored and neglected, it’s hard not to detest the recipient of such outpourings.

    But in a cat? Ruthie – you say your boyz light up and run to greet Babz when she comes to the door. True – they know their every need is fulfilled by you and your sister. Yet it’s equally true I’d feed my cats until they were full and, even then, instead of going off to lie down, they’d often want to jump in my lap. Then again, the sensation of being held and pet may have been only another instance of their wish to receive not only physical but emotional pleasure, the kind that reminded them of their childhood.

    Yet I’ve seen unconditional love expressed between animals. Some years ago one of the strays I couldn’t catch but fed every day was sitting by herself on a tree-stump when one of her kittens emerged from behind a pile of firewood stacked against the shed and ambled toward its mom. Her kittens were feral. She’d likely brought them into the world somewhere in the bushes or in a back alley, and they were wild, impossible to catch once they were big enough to run.

    But that day, as she sat grooming herself, one of her kittens made a beeline for mom. Mother was a homely little thing — if there’s such a ‘thing’ as a ‘homely’ cat (which there is not – though Helmi might not have had jumped at the chance to take a studio portrait of her). She, herself, had barely emerged from kittenhood, was not quite full grown, scrawny and fragile for all the food I offered her. But as pathetically young as she was, she jumped down the moment she saw her kitten, her face transfigured with maternal solicitude and pride as she watched her child approach – a golden fluff-ball fathered by Bertil, a vagabond male I’ve fed for years. But young as she was, her face could have been the Madonna’s, gazing with ages-old pride at her infant Son. She bent over her kitten, washing its face and ears while the kitten half-shut its eyes and leaned into his mom, beatific with contentment.

    But do cats feel an unconditional love for their human parents? When my old man was dying, he would raise himself up from his snuggy-loo and totter toward the side of the piano nearest to where I sat in my chair. And that’s where my boy would stretch out on his side, giving his mom the ‘big-eye’ – looking at me with his unblinking, soft blue eyes. And always I’d get up to pet and talk to him, then lift him down and hold him in my lap. To within a day of his end, when I sat in the chair by the woodstove, he’d jump off the piano – stiff as he was with arthritis – and stand on the floor, stroking his face against the edge of the wall, near the chair, looking up at me and wanting to be held. Criminy….I can’t see the screen.

    So there’s something to this. It’s in the eyes of an aged cat when he lies on the piano and looks at you as if he wanted to remember you forever. It’s in your tears when he’s left you. It’s something beyond the food and the blankets and creature comforts you’ve offered him throughout his long life. It’s the cruel trap that, in the end, clamps you in its jaws.

    • Caroline says:

      What an interesting, yet silly, question you ask in that title. 😉 We do not have any right to even expend brain “power” contemplating this, and I don’t. But I feel compelled to add a comment.

      We, “the supreme species” on this planet Earth, believe that we deserve to utilize [that was euphemistic–exploit is a much better word] anything or anyone, breathing or nonbreathing, if we deem it beneficial to our needs and wants. We as a species manipulate not only “lower” species but our own grandparents and friends to get our needs met. How do you define manipulation? Maybe some define it differently than I do…

      Cats are not deceptive. Dolphins, maybe. 😉 And they have suffered quite a bit, too. Et alia.
      Now here is an interesting photo. I wish that I knew exactly what the two were thinking…each lost in own thoughts, yet bonded tightly in the trauma.

      • Cats are not deceptive and humans are the world’s worst manipulators. That is your point and it is an excellent one. Nice photo. There is a lot of good in the human.

    • Caroline says:

      Sylvia Ann, you write so beautifully. It must have been sub-conscious that I wanted to reply to you instead of M., after reading all of the comments. <3 [stop being so emotional or I will have to send you a dead mouse.]

    • Great comment Sylvia Ann. Enjoyed it. Perhaps if we dispense with the word “love” which is often misused and which carries human baggage and call it “affection”, then I think we cab easily see that cats have affection for their human companion/guardian just as your boy had for you.

  7. Dee (Florida) says:

    By the way, the video of Cody crying for his caretaker for 35 minutes hurts my heart.
    I know that, when I am out of sight sometimes, that Lucky, Howl, and Cora will cry out for me. Damon, ofcourse, sees it as an opportunity.
    In any case, that’s why I so, carefully, time some of my outings. I really hate that they are so distressed when I’m gone.

    • By the way, the video of Cody crying for his caretaker for 35 minutes hurts my heart.

      Me too. It is said very casually by the video maker but I presume this happens routinely – I don’t know. How many millions of cats are home alone crying like that? No one knows!

    • DW says:

      So true. It begs the question “If a cat cries out, and no one is home to hear it, is it making a sound?” Bigfoot’s morning cries sound desperate too. I can talk to him from downstairs, but it doesn’t stop it.

      Damon…so funny Dee. Opportunist! lol. I’d never get another thing done if I had that many indoor cats. Not a thing.

  8. Dee (Florida) says:

    I think that, for most all of us here, our cats never have a need to manipulate with affection for anything. Necessities are always met and the majority of desires fulfilled.
    So, the affection that we receive is given freely.

    • It’s interesting but I have never thought about the possibility that my cat might be manipulating me with no affection. I have always felt a connection and it has always felt natural. I think, though, that the lot of cat owners don’t quite get that connection because they see their cat as something akin to a decoration for the house.

      • DW says:

        I agree with the other comments. They love us for sure. As for manipulation….I’d have to say, Marvin weaving figure eights between my legs while I’m walking, sort of directing me towards the couch, is a manipulation of sorts. He wants to knead and snuggle. Who can blame him?

        Then, there are the dueling cat calls in the early morning. Bigfoot howling, ‘come back up! Come back up!’ So I go. Then Marvin, who was happily eating when I headed upstairs, starts his blood curdling meows..’Come back down! Come back down!’ Manipulation, or love calls? Sometimes it is a regular circus.

        • Dee (Florida) says:

          So funny!
          Just when I thought I was the only one going in circles…

        • I think cats ask us in plain terms but we feel the emotional connection and can convert that request to manipulation (a human concept). I am probably not explaining what I mean clearly.

      • Dee (Florida) says:

        Are you saying that you never thought about the possibility that a cat may be manipulating by withholding affection?
        Interesting but I doubt it.
        Only women do that! LOL!

        • We do allow cats to pull at our heartstrings but that comes from us. I have a strong feeling that cats are not that different to us. Certainly at a fundamental level they are not and emotions and affection are fundamental aspects of life and living.

  9. Ruth aka Kattaddorra says:

    For sure our cats love us, they don’t and shouldn’t have to, manipulate us to be fed and cared for lovingly, we are greatly honoured to have them in our lives.
    To see Walter’s face light up and watch him running to meet Babz when she comes home from work is enough proof that cats love us for ourselves not for what we give them.

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